Groundbreaking new research

September 2017 marked the launch of an exciting new research project, “Legally Disabled? The career experiences of disabled people in the legal profession in England & Wales: developing future strategies.”

Prof. Debbie Foster of Cardiff University and independent researcher and photojournalist Dr Natasha Hirst will be undertaking this research, the first of it’s kind. The Lawyers with Disabilities Division (Law Society) have been key partners in the development of the project which aims to co-produce research with disabled legal professionals. We are continuing to seek the involvement of other groups across the legal profession.

Funded by the Disability Research into Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme, the research will be investigating the barriers and solutions for disabled people across the legal profession.

Latest news – ethics approval secured for interviews

Following a successful series of focus groups over the last few months, we are delighted to update you on the progress of the research.

Eight focus groups took place in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham with disabled legal professionals including para-legals, solicitors, barristers, judges, trainees and retirees.

Very constructive discussion at all of the focus groups helped us to identify key themes, concerns and issues.

We have just secured ethics approval for the second stage of the project – one to one interviews. In these interviews, we will explore individual experiences in more depth.

A Research Reference Group consisting of disabled legal professionals from a diversity of backgrounds have supported us with developing the interview questions.

Thank you to all who have taken part in the focus groups. Many more have expressed an interest in being interviewed. If you haven’t already been in touch and you’d like to be involved, you can reach us on info@legallydisabled.com

Please take a look around the website to find out how you can participate and follow the progress of the work.

About “Legally Disabled?”

Not enough is known about the experiences of disabled people in professional occupations. They are largely absent in academic research, their presence, seemingly unexpected. The premise of this project is that disabled people are both ambitious and talented, however, they need to be ‘seen’ and ‘expected’.

The research will investigate and map out the negative and positive experiences, choices and views of qualified disabled people working or seeking to work in the legal profession.

We include people with health conditions and impairments who may not define themselves as being disabled, as well as those who do.

Continue reading “About “Legally Disabled?””

What is Disability?

Who is disabled?

Disability is defined in different ways depending on the context. We explain the Social Model of Disability and introduce the definition provided by the Equality Act 2010, see below.

We understand that many people may not define themselves as disabled but do have conditions which impact on their lives. We aim to include as many people with impairments or health conditions as possible to ensure the research is representative of the wide range of issues and identities within the legal profession.

Continue reading “What is Disability?”

The DRILL Programme

DRILL is a Big Lottery funded five-year long, programme across the four nations of the UK, run by Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Disability Rights UK, and Inclusion Scotland. The funding is unique and exists to start the process of tackling a significant gap in the literature regarding the lived experiences of disabled people.

DRILL logo in english and welsh

The DRILL programme is led by disabled people in all parts of its structure.  The projects funded must be designed and delivered in full co-production with disabled people. This means that disabled people are equal partners in the research alongside academics or researchers. All projects must be aligned with the Social Model of Disability.

Continue reading “The DRILL Programme”



If you have any queries about the research or would like to get involved in any of the activities then please get in touch on:


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The researchers

Debbie Foster is Professor of Employment Relations & Diversity in Cardiff Business School and Dr Natasha Hirst is an independent photojournalist and researcher. Both researchers are disabled people.

Debbie’s original research focus was public sector employment relations and trade unionism.  However, she became interested in research on disability and employment following a personal experience of long term ill-health and secured ESRC funding to conduct a project that documented the lived experiences of negotiating workplace ‘reasonable’ adjustments.  This has since led to further research projects with trade unions and social partners at the European, national and regional levels. 

She first met Natasha Hirst in her role as Equality Officer for Wales TUC.  Natasha’s role was to develop a new network of trade union equality representatives throughout Wales and Debbie conducted research into equality representative experiences of representing disabled members.  Natasha then moved into photography and journalism, specialising in equalities and politics.

Read about Debbie’s research background on her Cardiff University profile.

More information about Natasha on LinkedIn

Cardiff Business School is a Public Value Business School, working to deliver both economic improvement and social improvement, recognising the role that business and management has to play in tackling some of the grand challenges in contemporary society. 

Debbie and Natasha have previously co-operated on a CARBS Public Value project and set up a blog (with Prof. Ralph Fevre of SOCSI) to highlight disability and employment research at Cardiff: Cardiff Research on Employment & Disability. 

In December 2016 (with Ralph, Prof. Vikki Wass & Prof. Melanie Jones) Debbie and Natasha also co-organised a conference ‘Closing Disability Gaps in Employment’ to coincide with the Government consultation on this subject.

For further information about the funder see the DRILL (Disability Research into Independent Living and Learning) website.

DRILL logo in english and welsh